TREVOR WEEKS: Swan caught with fishing hook and baby blue tit rescued from drain

The rescued blue tit back at WRAS SUS-160606-090024001
The rescued blue tit back at WRAS SUS-160606-090024001
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Two major rescues this week amongst hundreds of other of course. The first was to Ditchling Common where we had to rescue a swan and her cygnets after mum was found with blood on her body and a large fishing hook embedded in her tongue.

Rescuers Chris, Kathy, Dave and Wren accompanied me to the site expecting the swans to be out in the main pond, but luckily when we arrived they were in the inlet stream making the rescue much easier.

Chris and Kathy used bread to encourage the swans close, whilst I provided back up from the opposite bank in case the rescue attempt failed.

We were very lucky that the cygnets started coming out onto the bank allowing Kathy to pick them up and pass them to Dave, and finally the parent decided to follow after her young allowing Chris to catch her too.

I checked them over on site but it was clear the hook could not be easily removed without the assistance of our vet Mike, so they were all taken back to WRAS’s Casualty Centre.

The barbed end of the hook was embedded in the swan’s tongue so Mike, using a local anaesthetic, was able to push the hook through the tongue, avoiding any blood vessels, so the barb could be cut off using wire cutters and the hook removed safely.

The swan was bedded down with the three cygnets and kept at WRAS for a few days before being returned to Ditchling Common to their home.

We hope that the missing cob swan will still return as it is not unusual for them to fly off for a week or so and return.

WRAS over the past 12 months has had more than 25 calls from various sources including Lewes Council, East Sussex County Council and members of the public after reports of waterfowl caught in line at Ditchling Pond.

Although there are a number of very good and responsible anglers at the pond, it is clear that the pond is also used by some very irresponsible anglers who use completely inappropriate line, weights and hooks – many of which are only suitable for sea fishing – as well as fishing at unsuitable locations around the pond where line can easily become caught up in overhanging branches and debris underwater.

This is clearly the worst pond in East Sussex in my view. We regularly hear of fishing lakes being cleaned up but there is a strange idea that if you walk round undertaking a litter pick you will solve the problem.

The problem, especially with swans is under the water.

To clean up a pond properly you need to get in it wade through it and remove the line and hooks found.

The last time I had my dry suit on in the water I was constantly tripping over line and had two hooks embedded in my suit afterwards.

The second major rescue was not of a deer, fox, badger, swan or even a hedgehog, but a small almost ready to fledge blue tit stuck in a pipe underground.

RescuemManager Chris called me on Saturday on my day off and we went over to Heathfield where we were presented with a very similar problem to that of the fox cub in Cooden Beach a month ago.

We could hear the noise from the drain, but it was unclear whether it was echoing down the drain pipe from the roof, so off came the ladders from our ambulance to check.

This confirmed the bird was definitely underground.

As these little birds are so delicate you can’t go pushing things along the pipe or you are likely to injury the poor birds.

We used an air blower to try blowing the bird along to safety but the pipe was just too long and divided so was impossible to focus the air well enough to work.

There was only one option left, and that was to flush the bird out.

This is always risky but less of a risk than leaving the bird in the pipe.

It is important to use warm water so the bird doesn’t get too cold or hypothermic.

You need to get the balance right with the level of water in the pipe too, so you are not drowning the bird but at the same time there is enough water for the bird to float and travel along the pipe far enough.

So with Chris manning the drain I gently poured water down the drain.

Chris was delighted as a little blue tit floated its way out the pipe where he could then reach deep down to the pipe to save the poor little creature.

Back in the garden we borrowed a hair dryer to dry the little bird off and to ensure he didn’t get too cold.

He was taken back to WRAS’s Casualty Centre where he has now joined two other blue tits of a similar age.

He was soon chirping away and fluttering his wings and is clearly a little character.

We also had an unusual rescue of a jackdaw in a bricked up chimney in Lewes too.

The caller had managed to find a person willing to knock a hole in her wall so we could get to the bird.

Using a mobile phone we were able to see inside the fire place and Chris put his hand in to catch the young jackdaw.

Due to how underweight he is the bird has been taken into care too.

You can see videos of these rescues on our You Tube Channel at www.youtube.com/user/eastsussexwras.